Adapted from the MIFF website:
Based on Tatiana de Rosnay's New York Times best seller, Sarah's Key is the story of an American journalist living in Paris, Julia Jarmond, whose research for an article about the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in 1942 in France ends up turning her own world upside down. In July 1942, Sarah, a ten-year old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door-to-door in the middle of the night arresting Jewish families. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard – their secret hiding place – and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released. Nearly seventy years later, Julia stumbles on the terrible secret that the home Sarah's family was forced to leave is about to become her own. As Julia's life becomes entwined with Sarah's heart-breaking story she must tackle the complex issue of how to live with the past and keep moving forward. [...] It’s an unforgettable experience.The first two-thirds of the film are powerful and moving. Julia is simply the catalyst through which Sarah's (far more significant) story is told. I wouldn't even begin to give it justice by describing it, so I won't. Just know that (this part of the film) is one of the best things I've seen in a long time. [I'm ignoring the fact that I just saw HP 7.2 last week.]
But then we get to the last third of the film in which the focus is transferred to Julia. Not only is her story trivial and practically irrelevant up to this point, but such a dramatic (and perhaps unintentional) re-framing of the film seriously detracts from it's "unforgettableness." And the dialogue in Julia's "time" is pretty laughable (i.e., bad); something that wasn't an issue when we were with Sarah.
Despite this narrative shift, and it's subsequent fail, I highly recommend seeing Sarah's Key. It's one of those movies where you walk away from it not quite knowing what to say. What to think. How to process it all.
By caring for this fictional Sarah, you consider what the thousands of actual "Sarahs" must have gone through.
And that sticks with you.